How to pay if you owe money to the IRS

It's tax time, and while some people are getting refunds this time of year, others find they owe a balance to the IRS. If you do need to make a payment, you have several options available.

IRS Direct Pay allows you to schedule a payment to be deducted directly from your checking or savings account. There is no registration required, no fees, and you can do it all from the IRS website. Direct pay also gives you instant confirmation after your payment has been made. You can also schedule a payment to be made anytime up until your tax is due.


If you prefer to pay by debit or credit card, the IRS has several approved payment processors available who can take a tax payment online, by phone, or in some cases on your mobile device. These third-party payment processors do charge a processing fee which vary by provider.

If you are using E–file to send in your tax return, you can pay electronically at the time you file. You can schedule this payment via electronic funds withdrawal from your bank account. Payments can be scheduled any time after your filing, and as long as it's before the due date it will be considered as on time by the IRS.

If none of the electronic options appeal to you, you can do it the old-fashioned way and send a check or money order to the IRS. The check should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury, and should list your Social Security number on the front of the payment. Also included the tax year and related tax form, for instance form 1040. You should never send cash through the mail, and be sure you do not staple or clip your check to the tax form.

If you aren't able to pay the amount you owe by the due date, the IRS offers payment agreements that allow you to pay your tax liability over a period of time. Use the tool at to apply for an installment agreement, which you can configure for automatic payments or manual processing.

The State of California also offers a variety of payment methods, including web pay through the website, credit card payment through an authorized third-party provider (which will charge a fee for the service), Western Union, or the traditional check or money order. If necessary, you can pay with cash at the Sacramento or Santa Ana field offices of the Franchise Tax Board. The State also offers payment plans for those who qualify.

Remember that even if you can't pay the tax you owe, you should still file your returns by the due date in order to avoid late filing penalties. Filing an extension will give you more time to file your return, but not to pay any tax due. If you're filing an extension, you should still use one of the above methods to pay an estimated amount that you owe.